“It’s what I am, man!”, Yungblud answers when asked where he came up with the title for his debut record, “21st Century Liability”. The young Yorkshire native, born Dominic Harrison, just finished up a rehearsal session for his first ever headlining US tour. Big things have been happening for the artist: brand new album dropped this summer, festival shows a plenty, the aforementioned US tour, and an upcoming European tour next spring. If you’re not familiar, you need to get familiar. Yungblud has an infectious sound that brings in elements of hip hop, ska, punk, modern rock, etc. His smart blend of these genres and songs with an actual message put him a league of his own. They say rock and roll is about being who you are and taking a stance. If that’s the case then Yungblud is, in fact, the new face of rock and roll. Icon Vs. Icon’s Dylan Lyles recently got the chance to sit down with this artist on the rise to talk touring, songwriting, and the overall goal of connecting with as many people as possible.
Hey Dom, thanks for sitting down for a few minutes to chat with us. I first just want to start out by saying congratulations! This past summer you dropped the new album, “21st Century Liability.” You’ve played a plethora of huge crowds on Warped Tour, you’re in the midst of the US tour that already consists of multiple sold out dates, plus in the spring you head back to Europe for another tour. So, to kick this all off, how are you feeling right now?
Oh man it’s crazy! Like, I’m just overwhelmed as fuck! It’s just crazy to me, to have dropped the record and to have such a reaction internationally, it’s mental. I mean, I’m from fucking Doncaster in the north of England where nothing happens. Now in America where I’m about to start my first ever headlining US tour which sold out dates, and a sold-out run in Europe next year. It’s crazy, it’s mental, like … what the fuck?!
It is crazy, but you deserve it. Definitely, congratulations! Now, for our readers who may not be 100% familiar, and of course they will be soon as you’re doing huge things, I want to chat about your early memories in music. What are your first memories of music?
Hell yeah man! I mean to be honest, I am an adult with ADHD so I just had so much energy as a kid. I was so opinionated all the time and always had so much energy as a kid. A lot of people misunderstood me, and a lot of people misunderstood my energy. I think right now, and back then, especially nine years ago it’s getting better now, if you didn’t conform to a certain box people wouldn’t give you the time of day. Do you know what I’m saying? If you didn’t conform to a certain box they just didn’t understand you so they just pass you off as nothing. That just made me feel really frustrated and unaccepted. So, music was the thing I latched onto. I would listen to artists like Eminem, The Arctic Monkeys, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, Busta Rhymes. I would hear these outsiders who didn’t really give a fuck. They were just so fundamentally themselves. They expressed that through their music and to me, man, that was so sick! I was like, “If Eminem can be fundamentally, undeniably himself then so can I.” The music was something that made me feel like I could express myself in a way that no one could touch; that no one could tell me was wrong. Ya know? So, it’s pretty fucking special to me. It like infected my brain.
For sure, and when you listen to the album, “21st Century Liability,” it’s not hard to hear that you are completely unafraid to experiment with your own overall sound. That album, as a whole, is a cohesive project that brings in influences of hip hop, rock, ska, punk and so on. Did you go into this album knowing you wanted each song to have kind of a different sound, or is it something that kind of just happened?
Totally man! Like, to me all of those genres that we just named are the same thing. The fundamental, underlying soul of all those genres is freedom and not being afraid to express yourself in a way that you feel is right. Like punk, ska, rock, hip hop, they’re all connected on a level that’s really deep. To be honest man, I just wanted to create a record that makes people go, “Wow, what the fuck is this,” because it reflects my brain. My head moves a million miles an hour. I never want people to be able to put a finger on it, especially in rock and roll now. I’m under this rock and roll bracket because I’m like a kid and I got a guitar in my hand, but the thing is that I feel rock and roll is in a state of stagnation right now. There’re not many artists who are trying to push the boundaries with it. To me, man, it’s been almost condemned to NOT BE proper traditional rock and roll if it’s not just four idiots on stage banging the shit out of instruments. That’s why I think it’s hard to move forward. I just wanted to create a record that shows that rock and roll to me is about what you’re fucking talking about. I just wanted to create a record that accumulates so many different genres of music together. But, what ties it together, what makes it Yungblud, is the message. I think right now, my generation, we are so smart. We are so intelligent, and we actually genuinely give a fuck about the world. We’re not just bratty kids rebelling against the system for rebelling against the system’s sake. That’s a really naïve way of looking at us. We are a generation that knows and understands the future that we want to be a part of. But, it’s almost been held back by a generation who adopts these old ideologies and aren’t quite ready for the world to go to that place yet. I think I needed to write about that because it angered me. I think that’s why things move so quickly because I think people related to it worldwide. It’s amazing to me because I just felt in all my life this is the first time that I’ve been heard. Ya know what I mean? I just feel so connected with my fanbase, I feel so connected with them all. I stay behind after the shows to meet them because they genuinely inspire me to write these tunes. It’s always lyrics that come to me first and it’s exciting ya know?
Yeah, and that’s what I actually was going to get into next after speaking about the overall sound. Every song you’ve put out has been infectious. You’ve found this positive, catchy sound throughout the album that makes it almost impossible to stand still while listening. You’re able to do this without sacrificing the meanings behind the songs. Every song has something to say whether you’re touching on gun violence, the opioid epidemic, consent, and so on. You talked about your overall songwriting process, but what I really wanted to touch on was mental illness. It’s a topic that I hold very near and dear to my heart. It’s a very touchy subject that I feel isn’t addressed enough in a serious manner. A lot of your tracks touch on this subject. Was one of your hopes to give someone who may be struggling with mental illness something to identify with?
I want this album to be an outlet for people who feel like they can’t be themselves, or feel like they can’t say what they think. At the end of the day I wanted this album to say that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s so amazing that mental health is finally being taken seriously. I don’t want to tell people what to think because I don’t have all the answers. You know what I mean? I’m just a 21-year-old young person who is saying what I think; talking about what’s going on in my head. It makes me feel better if I talk about it. I just want to encourage people to say what they think and feel like their voice is important. There’re so many people right now who feel like they’ve not been heard. The amount of times I go and I speak to people after the shows they feel so silent and so afraid to speak because so many people are out to judge them. I want Yungblud to be a fucking safe space for people to be themselves no matter who they are. At my shows, man, it’s got to be fucking positive. I want the song to be hopeful, because it is fucking dark and we’re going to a dark place but once you find that outlet, once you find a community of people who feel exactly the same, it’s better. At my fucking shows everyone can be who or whatever they are. We’re a community of people who, ya know what, might not be right in the head. You might be there because the music connects to you or you might be there just to have a good time, but it’s fucking exciting. I mean it’s amazing the amount of people connecting to it. That’s it man, Yungblud is an outlet for me. I always refer to Yungblud in the third-person because it’s part of my head that understands me. It’s weird man, but writing it down I kinda understood myself.
It’s a connection that you have and it’s a connection that you’ve created with your audience. You’ve given people an outlet to share their feelings and I love that. I think that’s what makes Yungblud itself so fantastic. Now, “21st Century Liability” is a powerful title. Where did the inspiration come from for this?
It’s what I am, man. It’s all my thoughts, my anger, my emotions, what I felt growing up as a 21st century young person. It’s everything I’ve seen and wanted to talk about. I’ve felt like a liability my whole life because people just thought I was nuts because I was very outspoken and very opinionated. I was a kid that mums didn’t like very much. If I went to your house for fucking Sunday dinner I’d tell ya if I didn’t like ya. You know what I mean? That just made me feel like I was a liability and a little bit of a burden on people. But you know what? I wasn’t. People just made me feel like that and, it’s like, at the end of the day, and what I want people to take away from Yungblud is it’s totally okay to be yourself. If people don’t like who you are then they’re just totally not meant to be in your life.
I agree. It’s important to cut out that negativity and just be who you are. Now, switching over to the live show. It’s cliché for an artist to say “my live show is less of a show and more of an experience,” however, with you I feel like it’s 100% true. I had the opportunity to catch you at Warped Tour in Maryland and it was fantastic. Everyone became one big family. With the multiple festival shows this past summer, the fall US tour, and the spring European tour, what would you say your goal is as you hit the stage each and every night?
To leave a part of myself on it. If I ain’t done that, then I’ve done my job wrong. I just fucking love feeling connected to my fanbase. People are like, “How do you tour so much?” I’ve been on tour since January, really. I’ve had a week of here and there but I’ve been running and running and running. I just become so infected by it. Getting on stage, man, I can genuinely be myself. I don’t want people to leave my show and be like, “Yeah man, that was cool wasn’t it? Should we go get dinner? Do something afterwards?” I want people to leave my show and be like, “Fuck me man, I’m exhausted. I need to go to bed, that was the best thing I’ve ever seen.” I miss live performances now. I miss genuine live performances. I grew up watching bands like Oasis, the Arctic Monkeys, like fucking Coldplay. Big acts that when you stood in the audience, even the people standing in the back, you fucking feel it in your belly. It’s like a grenade has gone off in your chest. To me, I feel like live music has lost that a little bit. It’s all become very programmed, and very electronic. It’s just become some dickhead screaming down a mic and throwing water at people. I grew up on Jagger! I grew up on Freddie Mercury! I grew up on Liam Gallagher! I grew up on Eminem! I grew up on Kurt Cobain! I grew up on Madonna! I grew up on Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson! All these fucking icons! Bowie man! They’d all fucking walk on stage and put on a SHOW. Even fucking Coldplay man, their stadium show is fucking insane.
Exactly, and you’ve created this experience that’s almost gone extinct with modern music in 2018. Now, what has the American crowd been like since debuting in the US with “I Love You, Will You Marry Me?” We talked a little bit about Warped Tour, but what has that American crowd been like for you?
Mate, it’s been amazing man! It’s insane to see the connection like everywhere. Going across Warped Tour, the amount of kids, like 3-400 kids across every city losing it. It was just ridiculous. They were just so enthusiastic and excited, and I fucking love it. What’s amazing is that they would talk about like, there’s a mental health epidemic going on in America right now, but my fans aren’t afraid to talk about it with me. I love that, man. I want to create conversation with them. They make me understand shit that I may not necessarily understand. Like, you can’t understand someone’s point of view if it’s told in third-person sometimes. When you speak to someone, and you hear the emotion and feel the emotion in their heart, see it in their eyes, it sways you. It’s amazing, man. I can’t wait to get back out in the US. It’s fucking mad, right? Growing up in Doncaster … America just seemed so far away from me. Like another planet, almost. To be out here, about to tour the whole country on a headlining tour, that’s pretty much sold out. It’s fucking crazy.
I love that constant talk of connection, and I love speaking to you because I can see that you genuinely care. You’re not just there to get your name out there, you genuinely care about having that connection. Now, is there a different mindset you have when playing in America versus playing closer to home?
That’s so funny. Yeah, I think! It’s kind of like, the further away from home I get the more committed I get. I just want my message and my music to reach the four corners of the world. I’m not trying to sound a bit wanky, but I genuinely do. I mean, when I go to Australia I’m like, “Fuck me man, I’m in Australia, I need to take this territory.” I just want to meet as many people as I can. I don’t really give a fuck about record sales, and all that shit. I mean, that’s fine. I just want to play stadiums. I want to have thousands of people there … not just for me, man. It’s not about me. Yungblud ain’t fucking about me. It’s not about that. It’s about a unity and a fucking connection. You nailed it on the head, it’s like a connection to the family that I want to create. I’m not in it for the fucking, whatever like everyone is so focused on plaques and all of that shit right now. I’m not into that. I’m genuinely not. Like, I’m on the road with my best mates delivering a message that I genuinely believe in with all my heart and playing music that I fucking love. And to be providing answers to people who don’t necessarily have them is amazing because that’s the way I used to be. That’s what Eminem did for me. That’s what Alex Turner did for me. That’s what Joe Strummer and The Clash did for me. That’s what Lady Gaga did for me. It’s just insane.
For sure, and I mean you have been touring nonstop since January, we talked about that earlier. You have a lot of hours to kill when you’re not performing. Taking a step back, how do you stay busy when you’re not on stage?
Write. Fucking write. Also, I’m on my social media because the amount of DMs I get from people every day is crazy. I try to respond to as many as I can or at least write lyrics that I can put on my twitter that can connect to people. I always want to be connected to people, that’s the thing for me. I put so many lyrics on my twitter. Rock and roll music does not have a presence online, and that’s why I love hip hop so much. Hip hop artists genuinely give you an insight into their soul and into their life. I think that’s amazing. Yeah, sometimes I may not understand or agree with what they’re saying, but at least they’re saying something. I love being online. At first it’s scary to put yourself online. It’s like, “Fuck me, everyone is gonna judge me.” But it’s just so fun just connecting with thousands and thousands of people. And eventually, hopefully millions, and never failing to put my message out there. To me man, it’s like, if I got an hour to kill I’ll go on Instagram live or something. If I’ve got two hours to kill I’ll start writing lyrics that I can put into a song when I can finally get back into the studio. I want to be able to utilize that in the best way possible. I want to be putting new music out … December this year, January next year. I’m ready, I’ve got another album ready to go! I’m gonna be dropping like a song every month. You know what I mean, man?
I’m very excited to hear that!
I’m so excited! Like, going on Warped Tour and meeting the kids, that first record was about outwardly addressing issues with the world and issues with myself. It was outward. It was leave it alone mate. It was stop calling me a psychopath. It was stop calling me an anarchist. I don’t like just analyzing my mental health so much, but the next songs I’ve been writing have been inward. They’re about what I’ve been feeling on the road and what people have confided and told me. Like, there’s a song called “Mars” I can’t wait to release. It’s about a person that … it fucking chokes me up every time man, every time I say it, it takes my breath away. I was on Warped Tour and this girl came up to me who used to be a boy. She told me that “Kill Somebody” allowed her to put her makeup on and go down to her parents and say, “This is who I am.” That, for me, was just fucking crazy. I had to write this song, and it’s almost like a 21st century version of “Life on Mars” by David Bowie. I can’t wait to release songs like this: about genuine positive connection and telling stories about people I’ve met.
That’s very powerful, and I feel it truly comes back to the overall topic of this interview: connection. Connection to your audience. Connection to the people around you. It’s truly phenomenal. Now, looking back on these past couple of years what can you say stands out as some of your greatest creative milestones?
I love the videos I just put out. I love “Medication” and “Psychotic Kids.” I really wanted to express my visual identity. I wanted people to see the pink socks. I wanted people to see videos that genuinely mean something. It’s not just me under neon lights singing pretty, or throwing dollars on a car with my mates awkwardly standing next to me. I wanted to genuinely create an identity and a character that people can latch onto and go to for help. That I can go to for help, ya know? Also, probably “Polygraph Eyes,” which is one of my favorite songs. It was the first time I told a story about what I’ve seen and the first time I explored an issue so outright that I was totally out of my comfort zone. Because, I’ve seen it but I’ve never genuinely experienced that. I haven’t been sexually assaulted. I’ve just only seen it happen and seen it around me. And I wanted to write something that was from a third-person almost. As well, the other day The Recording Academy tweeted me saying, “We think Yungblud could be the future sound of rock and roll” and that just blew my fucking mind. Like, what the fuck? Hahaha. And finally, just touring and being able to connect to people. I know I sound like a broken record but that’s it man, I just want to connect with as many people as I can. That’s what music is about, right?
Of course, 100%.
It’s become about how many Instagram followers can I have or how much fucking money can I make. It’s not about that for me, man. It’s about connecting to as many people as I can because it’s weird man … we can get lost. And, I don’t want to be lost.
That’s 100% true. You’re a genuine artist, there’s no mistaking that. It’s easy to see that you are a goal oriented individual. You’ll stop at nothing to achieve success, even if that success is that connection. Is there anything at the moment that you have your mind set on doing in the not-so-distant future? A goal that you haven’t quite met just yet?
Yeah man, I’m excited. I’m excited to work on collaborations with artists that you wouldn’t expect. Like there’s some in the pipeline and there’s some recorded that I just can’t wait to release. For me it’s all about embracing culture and embracing things that I wouldn’t normally do or that people wouldn’t expect to work. But, I mean why would I want to do a collaboration with someone who sounds like me? Why would I want to do that? I can’t wait to reveal it and drop these collaborations. That’s gonna be really fun. That’s going to be a milestone for me. For people to go, “Ya know what? I don’t know what the fuck Yungblud’s going to do next.” And that’s the way I want to be for the rest of my career.
It’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone, right?
Hell yeah! That’s the fun part!
Well I want to thank you for taking the time out of your hectic, busy schedule to chat with me. The album is fantastic, the tours have been going well, and I know it’s only going to get better from here. I know I caught you in the middle of rehearsal so I’ll let you get back on stage so you can rock it!
Thank you brother! It was sick to talk to you!
Obsessed with all things horror, video games, comics and vinyl, Dylan has been surrounded by all things geek culture since birth. Along with writing for Icon Versus Icon he’s also the co-host for the year long Christmas podcast, “Christmas 365”.
“No wimps. No False Metal.”